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Start with a good foundation

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:23pm

It's a familiar scenario-an old barn foundation slowly sinks into the ground. Stones crumble away. Walls and roof begin to sag. The situation looks hopeless, the barn looks dangerous, and an otherwise useful building is abandoned.

But a crumbling foundation doesn't necessarily mean an old barn has no future, as Janis King found in her 1987 BARN AGAIN! demonstration project. With a rebuilt foundation and other repairs, her 1870 barn is ready for its next 100 years of use.

A new publication of the BARN AGAIN! program gives practical advice for repairing barn foundations. The first in the Barn-Aid series, Barn Foundations, analyzes the major problems of stone, concrete and concrete block foundations, and shows how to remedy them. The publication also includes a checklist for analyzing foundation repairs and a guide for estimating costs.

"I always tell people to get the technical information they need, then interview contractors to find out if they really know what they're doing," says King. Bids for masonry work on the barn varied wildly-from $800 to $10,000, she says.

"Replicating the barn's original mortar is most important," King says. "Our foundation was falling apart because of misguided attempts in the 1940s to repair it with Portland cement."

The sandstone foundation of the King barn was little more than a pile of rocks, and the east wall fo the barn was sagging badly when restoration began in 1987. The barn was jacked up and a new sill beam installed, then the foundation was rebuilt underneath. Cost of rebuilding the 30-foot section of foundation was $2,200. Other repairs included replacing the cedar roof, repairing and painting, siding and raising interior lofts.

Stone masons rebuilt the foundation under the 45 X 90-foot barn. The restored barn provides more than 12,000 square feet of storage space. Fixing the foundation was the first big step in making the rest of the rehabilitation possible.

It's a familiar scenario-an old barn foundation slowly sinks into the ground. Stones crumble away. Walls and roof begin to sag. The situation looks hopeless, the barn looks dangerous, and an otherwise useful building is abandoned.

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